Trade flows

Carrying on when Ebola hit Sierra Leone – one man’s story

How business owner Jihad Swaid kept going when tragedy struck

My staff needed me to stay strong

I often get asked what it felt like when Ebola hit my country. It was an emotional time, an uncertain time, a tense time. Many of us also felt a sense of abandonment. Everything was shutting down – flights were cancelled and imports of foreign goods grounded to a halt. One of my businesses, Benco Trading, a distributer of imported goods, was brought to a virtual standstill. It was a struggle to keep going, but I was determined to carry on in whatever way I could. I didn’t want to abandon my staff.

The right help at the right time saved me

Cash flow was tight. I desperately needed funding, but with everything closing down, it was impossible to get a loan. Then just when it looked impossible to carry on, I got help via a funding facility from UK Government’s development institution CDC Group plc (CDC) and Standard Chartered. The cash injection – part of programme intended to limit the economic impact of the Ebola epidemic – helped my business stay afloat and meet day-to-day financing needs.

I decided to focus on developing something to help fight Ebola

Of course, we still couldn’t bring goods into the country, so I decided to focus on developing something to help fight Ebola. I also own a detergent factory and as hand washing with soap and clean water was one of the ways to help stop the virus spreading, I partnered with UNICEF to produce bars of soap for them to hand out.

Sierra Leone will rise from Ebola

Sierra Leone’s economy was growing fast before the Ebola crisis. There was lots of foreign investment, high employment and fast growth. All that momentum was lost during the outbreak. We hope funding facilities like the one we got from CDC and Standard Chartered encourages other institutions to invest in Sierra Leone again, giving our country a much-needed boost. With proper access to finance, I truly believe that my country has the potential to be an African powerhouse.

Helping my country is everything to me

While I plan to expand Benco internationally in the future, right now my I am passionate about helping to rebuild my home – I owe it to my children.

 

A partnership between Standard Chartered and CDC Group plc, the USD50 million funding facility provided short-term loans and overdrafts to help Sierra-Leone businesses like Jahid’s continue running during the Ebola crisis.

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